Define nationalism; and what factors led to the growth of nationalism in Nigeria?

Nationalism is The Spirit of belonging together or the Corporate will that seeks to preserve the identity of the group by institutionalizing it in the form of a state. It can also be described as the aspiration of a group to achieve statehood and establish government based on popular sovereignty.
According to plano and Olton, liberal nationalism emphasizes freedom from -foreign domination, self rule and middle-class democracy.

 A number of factors caused nationalism.

  1. Economic Factors: The agitation and demands by West Africans for increasing participation in the economy of Nigeria brought about nationalism.
  2. Another factor that aided nationalism was the discrimination suffered by Africans in the employment market.
  3. The development of trade unions which pressed for their demand through strike also aided the growth of nationalism in Nigeria. There was a general strike in 1945 and this forced the colonial masters to accede to the demands of the striking work force.
  4. The development of virile press aided the growth of Nationalism in Nigeria. The Lagos Weekly Record was established by John Payne in 1921 and in 1925, the Lagos Daily News was launched by Herbert Macaulay. In 1932 The Commet was established by D. M. Ali while in 1937, the West African Pilot joined the stable.
  5. The Emergence of political parties also aided the growth of Nationalism in Nigeria. Political parties such as the Nigerian Youth Movement, National Democratic Party, The Action Group and Other Political parties fought assiduously against the colonial masters.
  6. The return of Ex-Service men who fought along side the white men in the second world war also encouraged nationalist activities. Having fought alongside the white men the concept of white man’s superiority was deflated.
  7. The independence of other countries like India, Pakistan, Ghana also kindled the Nationalist fire in Nigeria.


For the nationalist to survived in Nigeria, there are factors that assisted them in struggle for the
attainment of independence. These factors are divided into external and internal factors.

Internal factors

  • Establishment of political parties:- As the Clifford constitution guarantee the establishment of political parties, this however created the consciousness in the heart of Nigerians and make them to have the notion of ruling themselves. For instance the NNPC in 1922 headed by Herbert Macaulay uses his part to fight against colonialism.
  • Emergence of nationalist Newspapers:-The creation of indigenous newspapers like The West African
    pilot which was established by Nnamdi Azikwe 1937. Through his newspaper, it publishes shocking
    stories about the colonial masters which normally appeared on the front page. And this has created a bad picture of the colonial master in the mind of Nigerian.
  • The return of ex-service men:- Some Nigerians were privileged to studied in abroad, while some were taken to abroad to fight war. On their arrival, they canvassed for the white colonial masters to leave their country. The reason for this was that, they now see that even the white men who was then assumed to be superior then were not as they think, because some of the white men were killed by the blacks during the war, so this refutes the belief that white men cannot be kill by gun and therefore they are regarded as ordinary men. Other reason was the exposure of some Nigerian that studied in abroad who questioned the fadonale behind the white men authority.
  • Constitutional development:- the colonial constitution gave Nigerians the opportunity to elect a handful of representative to the legislative council, this therefore open the eyes of the nationalists to the unjust rule of their colonial masters.
  • Other internal factors include, economic exploitation, discrimination and non-appointment of educated Africa in any decision making (majority in the council were white-men). Also there was introduction of heavy tax especially in east that led to Aba riot of 1929. All these and more led to the calling for the colonial master’s head.

External factors

The followings are external factors that galvanized the activities of nationalism these are:-

  • The Atlantic Charter:- This was signed by American President; Roosevolt and British Winston Churchill,
    one of the aim of the charter is to grant independence to countries who are under colonialism. There was a call for self-government in all countries that are under the colonial masters.
  • The independence of India:- When India first got her independence in 1949 and Ghana in 1959, other countries including Nigeria now see the possibility of getting free from foreign dominance, so there was crave for independence.
  • Opposition from Associations:- Different associations came up, especially the Nigerian students in abroad who joined those from other colonies under the umbrella of pan-African groups such as the WASU (West African Student Union) founded in London in 1925, they all put pressure on the colonial government to hand over power to the nationalist. Also Labour Party who happen to be one of the prominent party in Britain kicked against colonialism. International Organisations kicked against Colonialism. Various organizations like the United Nation Organisation (UNO), Soviet Union and the United State of American all frown against the foreign domination of the colonial master over Africa and other countries that are under colonialism.
  • Other factors include the world economic depression. The lost of Great Britain as a super power country.

In conclusion, it is obvious that the above internal and external factors made Britain to grant independence to Nigeria on 1st October, 1960.

Further Reading; headings and questions

Below are some searches you ought to make in your research to get a broader idea on the concept.

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  • factors that influence the growth of nationalism in nigeria
  • examine the factors that led to the rise of nigeria nationalism
  • effect of nationalism in nigeria
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  • internal and external factors of nationalismg

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